EXCLUSIVE: “Pretty Little Liars”‘ boss Marlene King talks Emaya, writing her own fan fiction, and rumors of Emily’s bisexuality

There’s not a showrunner working in Hollywood today who is as in touch with her fans as Pretty Little Liars boss Marlene King. She commands the largest Twitter army on the internet. Last season, the social media typhoon about the “A”-revealing finale made PLL the most-tweeted about and Facebooked show ever. Fans love to talk to Marlene, and Marlene loves to talk back. But what really makes her a rarity in the TV-writing world is that she also loves to listen. With four days to go until the PLL Season 3 premiere, Marlene took time out of her crazy schedule — they’re simultaneously filming episodes 3.09 and 3.10 right now — to talk to me about fans, rumors, and what’s in store for our favorite lesbian Liar this season.

Photo courtesy of Marlene King’s Twitter

AfterEllen.com: Thank you so much for carving some time out to talk to our AfterEllen.com readers. We’re really excited about season three over here.
Marlene King:
Thank you for taking the time to chat with me. All of us on the Pretty Little Liars set love AfterEllen. We all read the recaps and the commentary from your readers. Shay [Mitchell] and I were just talking about you guys yesterday.

AE: Yes, our readers really are the best. They make me laugh all the time. And boy, do they love Shay. OK, let’s jump right into it. Season 3. Red is the new black, right? Tease me about what we can expect in the upcoming season.
MK: You can expect new secrets, new mysteries, new characters, some poor judgment on the girls’ part that leads them into jeopardy, and added trouble with the Rosewood Police Department.

AE: Just what I wanted to hear! How are you going to keep the pressure on them that you had in the previous two seasons, now that “A” has been revealed?
MK: I’m really happy with the way we’re launching Season 3, the premiere episode next week. I feel like we really hit the reset button — in the way Sara Shepherd does every couple of books — by relaunching and introducing a Big Bang Mystery. I feel like it will be really satisfying. By the end of the episode you’re going to realize these girls are in a boatload of trouble again, and the pressure is totally on.

AE: I’ve watched a couple of preview clips and it looks like Emily is still reeling from Maya’s death.
MK: Definitely. The Season 3 premiere takes place five months after the Season 2 finale. The finale took place in April and we come back on Labor Day Weekend, so it will be the second anniversary of Alison’s death. And yes, Emily is still very much devastated about Maya’s death. She went to Haiti for the summer to build houses for the poor, so the girls are playing catch-up with her. She’s really in that anger stage of grief as opposed to sadness.

AE: I have to ask you this because you know how it is in Rosewood — is Maya really, seriously dead?
MK: Yes, Maya is dead.

AE: JK Rowling always said you’ve got to be a ruthless killer if you’re going to write good stories.
MK: It’s kind of true! I call it “killing your babies.” And it’s really terrible. Sometimes you have to kill your babies, and it’s such an agonizing decision. I actually tweeted yesterday — and I’m serious about this — that I might write some Emaya fan fiction, and just go off in a direction like, “Well, what if…” Like Pretty Little Liars: What If, so I can explore a different dimension of, “What if that character were still alive?” I think that would be really fun. Because killing Maya was agonizing. I feel like it was really important for our story, and people will see in Season 3 that it really invigorates the drama and the mystery of the show having done that. Good storytelling has to embrace significant loss and pain and hardship. Without the bad, there can’t be any good.

AE: I think the Emaya fans would go nuts over some Marlene King-penned fanfic. You’ve heard from them, I know. They sent you a case of pens that say, “We want Maya alive and written back into the show.”
MK: I’m holding one of those pens as we speak! We use them all the time. All the cast has them now, the network, the studio. Let me give you this exclusive tidbit: We will see the character of Maya on the show in Season 3. She’s dead. But we’re going to see Maya again, more than once. So, I didn’t bring her back to life, but I did write her back into the show. And I hope I did it in a way that will please the Emaya fans. We really did appreciate those pens and the gesture. In fact, one of those pens might make its way into the show, so people should be on the lookout for that!

Photo courtesy of Marlene King’s Twitter

AE: Are we going to see Emily work through her grief about Maya as the season progresses?
MK: Yes, that is very much her character arc in the summer show. She’s processing these feelings about Maya being the love of her life, her soul mate, and she has to find a way to live her life to now, to be happy again.

AE: All winter, I’ve had that image in my head from the finale of Emily falling apart when Pam tells her Maya has been killed. It’s like being punched in the heart! Is she going to find love again, or has she just resigned herself to the fact that when she loves someone, it means murder?
MK: [Laughs] Oh, it certainly crosses her mind that the people she falls in love with — including Alison — all go away. So that’s part of her process. But Emily will eventually land in a place where she’ll be open to love again. And hopefully she’ll find a girlfriend who will stay with her for a while.

AE: You say “girlfriend,” which I think will make our readers really happy, because I’ve heard some speculation that Emily might hook-up with some boys this season. I know she’s bisexual in the books. Is that the direction you’re taking her?
MK: It’s not our intention. I want to choose my words really carefully here, because Emily is going through a period of mourning and loss and confusion, and she may make a decision or two that will take her on a winding road — but she definitely quickly comes back to her understanding of her sexuality.

AE: That’s true to life. Grief can make you do all kinds of things. What can you tell me about potential love interests for Emily going forward. Are Samara and Paige still around?
MK: We haven’t seen Samara yet, but we’re only on episode nine right now. Paige is still a part of the show. She’s not around for the first five episodes, but she does come back into Emily’s life. And they sort of start off a few steps behind where they were in the finale. They’re trying to find a way to be friends.

AE: What about the love lives of the Pretty Little Moms? I love those ladies.
MK: The moms get to have a lot of fun with romance this year. It’s not just the girls hooking up with the hotties. When we meet our characters in our Season 3 premiere, Byron and Ella are getting divorced and they’ve both comes to terms with it. Ella has started to date, and Ashley Marin is going to meet a new fellow who surprises her this season as well. It’s definitely a relationship you would not expect.

 Photo credit: D Dipasupil/Getty Images

AE: I know Janel Parrish was promoted to a series regular, so you’re not just going to leave Mona brooding away in Radley Sanitorium, right?
MK: Oh, no! No, no, no! We’re having so much fun exploring the character of Mona. We’re bringing her back into the fold in a way that’s fun to watch. She’s obviously still a part of the mystery, but there are some emotional wounds that need to be healed too. Her and Hanna were best friends, and I think when we meet Hanna in the Season 3 premiere she’s still trying to understand what she did to make Mona hate her so much.

AE: I want to talk for a second about Pretty Little Liars being the most buzzed about show in the history of the social media. You really have your finger on the pulse of fandom. How does that translate to the writers room?
MK: You know, I’m always thinking about our fans when I’m writing. I try to stay in touch with them. I get a lot of pleasure from that. I feel like it would be impossible not to be aware of how the decisions we’re making on a daily basis affect the people that watch our show. Part of the fun of Pretty Little Liars is that we watch it together. We tweet about it. We Facebook about it. So it becomes this universal experience. We’re not creating a show in a vacuum. We do this for the fans. That’s very important to us.

AE: How much of a tangible impact do fans have on the story?
MK: I think our fans’ voices make a significant impact on our creative process. Their opinions and their excitement — we can tell when they’re excited about certain elements of the show, whether it’s a mystery or a relationship, and we love that. We’re writing to entertain our fans; it would be silly not to listen to them.

AE: OK, will you give me a really juicy tidbit that will make me crazy?
MK: There’s a new character coming to the show that will open up the mythology of the show a lot and we’re really excited about that. We’re going to find out about a period of time in Rosewood that we haven’t really explored yet. We’re going to open up a whole new set of mysteries for the girls.

AE: Awesome, awesome, awesome. Listen, do me a favor and keep Emily safe, OK? She’s been through enough! Let the other Liars have a turn!
MK: You know “A” is an equal opportunity torturer. All of the girls will have their day, I promise.

Pretty Little Liars‘ third season kicks off on ABC Family next Tuesday, June 5th. Be there or get GLASS IN YOUR HAIR.

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